Here's a classic originally written in December of 2015, but as it is about ghosts, I think it's a great choice for our Classic Rewind.
Journey back to my mind of 3 years ago as I ponder why a ghost would need, or even want, to carry a lantern...
I was looking at some old D&D stuff and I came across this image in the AD&D 1st edition Monster Manual.
It's a ghost.
That is the illustration for the ghost entry, I mean. So you have this ghost, running about in what I assume is a graveyard from the faint images behind it, and it's carrying a lantern. This struck me as odd. Why would the ghost be carrying a lantern? Can it not see in the dark? Note that the handle of the lantern can be seen through the ghost's translucent fingers (unless I'm imaging it), so that means it is an actual lantern, not a ghost lantern.
Is this something a player can leverage? Like, we don't want to carry torches because then we can't carry a weapon and a shield and you can't cast spells holding a torch and the thief certainly doesn't want the light when she's all hiding in shadows, so let's hire a ghost, they carry lanterns.
Curiosity getting the better of me, I read the entry on ghost, to see if there was something about this lantern. Nada.
I did learn that ghosts just flat out age people 10 years unless they make a saving throw (and in 1st edition any Cleric above 6th level was immune to it). And that they all attack with a magic jar spell to attempt possession. Failing that they semi-materialize and start wailing on people.
This is one of those things that youngsters, spoiled by their more modern editions always fail to appreciate. Undead would seriously hurt you in the old days. Age you, drain your levels, and other nastiness, and they were almost always impossible to hurt without a bit of magic. This is why the Cleric's Turn Undead ability was actually useful.
Magic Jar was one of those spells that seemed to exist to give the game flavor. It's almost never used by PCs because it is almost unusable. First the wizard has to get a gem or something, this is the "jar" in question, and put his soul into it. Then when something living comes near the gem the soul inside can attempt to possess the body, effectively booting the owner's soul out, or at least putting it into passenger mode. Only the gem cannot detect what the body actually is that is near it. When are you going to use this?
Well, it is one of the spells required to achieve Lichdom...but outside of that? I suppose if you were really sneaky you could sneak into the dragon's lair while it was out looking for cattle, cast Magic Jar on one of the gems in the horde and then wait for the dragon to come home and try to possess it. I don't know what you'd do then. I guess commit dragon suicide, go back into the gem and then go back into your own body. Possibly.
Since the ghost does not have a gem or anything it's just an attempt at possession, but the DM is supposed to use the magic jar spell rules to "simplify" things.
Not the point. So I was wondering if this ghost with lantern thing was common and I did some Google searching and did not find much. The odd story here or there, but no, ghosts running around in graveyards carrying helpful lights not high in the search results.
So I ran over to AD&D 2e to see if the ghost there kept its lantern. Instead I got this:
Not particularly scary either. Then I remembered my New Dungeon board game from back in the day and with the help of BGG I found this:
Aha! Lantern! And possibly tits. It might be the light, but I think that sheet ghost has both booty and boobies. It seems a bit feminine.
But then we have Classic Dungeon released only three years after New Dungeon in 1992 (because TSR knew how to milk a cash cow before WOTC ever did). Kind of creepy, that one. It's doing the whole, "I've come for YOUooooooooooooooooo!" pointing thing and it is vaporous with a skully face and I think it's wearing a Celtic cross.
Reminds me a bit of my favorite Gatlinburg brochure.
So here's what I think happens. You die, and you become a ghost, and there is this Ghost Relations Bureau and you have to get a Ghost Job. They probably look you over and if you died in some gruesome way connected with say, a bridge or a tree or something, they just send you back there to scare people. Then after a certain number of years, if you work hard and age enough people, then you get to move up to some other position. Maybe a house haunting or something. Now, if you die and you don't look gruesome or impressive, like say you had a heart attack while playing WoW or something, your lame ass has to wear the sheet. And carry the lantern. It's like they really want you to have a chance at this whole ghost thing, so they give you a ghost uniform, which is a sheet, as we established years ago, and then you get the lantern and off you go; a haunting, so to speak. Then, if you manage to survive, as ironically as that sounds, enough adventurers and what have you, you get to qualify for a better job. But you never forget the lantern. Oh no. You tell stories to the younger ghosts about the "good old days" when all a ghost needed was a sheet and a lantern, none of this hi-tech CGI nonsense you have now days, no siree, just a sheet and a lantern, that's how we did it in the old days. You showed up, waved the lantern, aged a few adventurers, maybe possessed the Fighter and chopped up the Cleric. Back when haunting was real haunting and a ghost was a real ghost and your hits aged 'em and they could only attack you in the ethereal state, even if they had magic. None of this namby pamby shit you kids have now.
Nope, you never forget the lantern, kids.
So, keep your (pumpkin) lanterns, lit.